Gone. The saddest word in the language. In any language.
I miss him, my dad. I haven't taken his ring off since he died because it feels like he is circling me in the way his protective fathering did while he was alive. Alive; he is not alive. It has been four years and I still grapple with the reality that is his missing from the earth. That is how this blog was born. Words and doodles became a way for me to channel my grief. Nostalgia for the ones we love is often intertwined with food memories and food traditions. This along with music is very true for me. It is so very doleful to be constantly reminded of this man when songs come on the radio or I sip a cup of sake...or is it? Perhaps the love he showered on and instilled within me was so constant and full that it permeated all things, leaving traces and reminders of him for me to always see. These are the things that allow me to celebrate and remember him as I come to terms with losing him too soon. When the heart clenching grief strikes I cling to this thought. If he had not loved big, I wouldn't feel this way.
Music, words, and food are all conduits to my reminiscing. My dear friend Kevin Young writes so beautifully of all these things. His book Dear Darkness sings the mournful song within my heart all the while inspiring awe in foods and moments seemingly ordinary. I read his words often for the sheer mellifluousness of them and because I feel them to the marrow.
Gumbo is chock full of goodness, steeped in history and tradition. I read an ethnography on a Louisiana gumbo cooker once and it stuck with me. Just as Kevin's ode points out "like life, there's no one way to do it, and a hundred ways, from here to Sunday to get it dead wrong." The day was brisk and so long when trying to not remember the date. So in Kevin's words "why not boil and chop." I read the poem again and cried over the words "I know gumbo starts with sorrow."
I turned the music up, set out my ingredients, and set forth my grappling. First I chopped.
"an entire onion cut open and wept over..."
I stirred my roux. And stirred.
"...with flour and water making sure not to burn."
When it was dark like chocolate I added my ingredients slowly, thoughtfully. The chicken, the Andouille, the duck, my mirepoix, the okra, the cayenne... It bubbled and I stirred. Gumbo becomes something greater than the sum of its parts after hours of simmering. Just as food is more than mere sustenance, but chock full of tradition, culture, and history. I started the rice in another pot. The chopping and measuring was comforting and mind numbing just as the clean up was. My dad never left a dirty dish in the sink, I thought as I gently washed my utensils. He is always here and he would like this sort of remembering.
Listen to Kevin read Ode to Gumbo.